How to Deal with a Toothache in Flight

By Izzie • General, Health • 24 May 2013

Now that vacation time is here, a lot of us will be flying to beautiful destinations to spend time with friends and family. But as the flight ascends, a sudden throbbing in a tooth occurs that can bring you to your knees and your hopes of a fun filled vacation are suddenly at risk. You are not alone if you get anxious about flying, but throw in a toothache and it could be an especially long ride. You didn’t have a toothache when you got out of bed this morning. What is going on?

When we fly, the cabin pressure in the plane changes and some fluids, such as in our ears and sinuses, constantly try to adjust to this change in pressure. When these fluids finally do equalize, our ears “pop” and we feel better. We notice this plugged feeling mostly on the take off and landing of the plane and for most it will last a few hours. There are several methods to help deal with the pressure change. The most popular are chewing gum or trying to yawn. You can even use decongestants before your flight to prevent some of these problems.

But when it comes to your tooth, it is a little bit different story. First of all, there is a chance that the pain could be entirely unrelated to your tooth. Try to pinpoint the cause, because sinus problems mimic toothaches. So if you have had a cold or any sinus issues, it is easy to confuse the discomfort with a toothache. Again, a decongestant before boarding may help if this is the problem.

However, if the sensation is in your tooth, it could be an agonizing flight. The pain may be resulting from trapped microscopic pockets of air within your tooth. This air could have been trapped when a filling was done or it could have crept in around an old filling, or even through a new area of decay in your tooth. The trapped air, unlike that in your ear, has nowhere to go to equalize to the air pressure in the cabin. It will only build up as pressure in your tooth and make it hurt and throb. Motrin may help, but it often will not go away until you are off of the plane for awhile and the pressure returns to normal. You may spend some of your vacation lying in bed waiting for this achy, throbbing pain to subside. This is a terrible way to spend precious vacation time.

It is important to know that if it has happened once, it will probably happen again. Your anxiety may begin to build even thinking about the dreaded return flight or any upcoming flight. Although this may be a good excuse not to board the plane home, most of us must return to reality at some point. You could gamble and take a decongestant before boarding the plane in the hope that it is just a sinus issue. Or you could see a dentist to find the culprit before you fly again. If you choose to see a dentist, try to remember specifically which tooth or what area was hurting so that they can help you resolve the problem and you can fly again in comfort.

This post is sponsored by West Palm Beach dentist,

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